Bears raiding kitchens
Bears in West Sumatra province have started raiding kitchens in houses on the edge of the forest in search of food, the Kompas reported yesterday. The honey or sun bears (Helarctos Malayanus) have raided kitchens in three residences in the Danau Kembar area in the past few days, it said. In the latest incident early on Sunday, two of the powerful omnivores entered a tea plantation worker’s kitchen by removing planks on the walls and feasted on milk, cooking oil and leftovers. “These animals do not fear humans. Even though there was someone sitting in front of the house they just went straight into the kitchen,” the daily quoted Daswir, a plantation security guard, as saying. Conservation officials are planning to trap the bears and move them to forests far from human settlement, the paper said.
Exiled writer finds haven
Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen has arrived in Sweden where she has been offered a safe haven, the Upsala Nya Tidning reported yesterday. The city council of the university city of Uppsala, north of Stockholm will pay Nasreen a monthly stipend of 5,000 kronor (US$833) and pay for her accommodation during a two-year period, the report said. It is the second time Nasreen will live in Sweden. In 1994 she was forced to leave Bangladesh after Islamic fundamentalist groups issued a fatwa and placed a bounty on her head over the content in her writings, including the novel Lajja (Shame). Nasreen, who is also a trained doctor, lived for more than a decade in Europe and the US. The 45-year-old writer was reported to be in poor health and suffering from a heart problem.
US sailor arrested
Police said yesterday they had arrested a US sailor for allegedly assaulting a local man while drunk, in the latest of a series of incidents linked to US forces in the country. Petty officer second class Richard Ted Turner Jr, 23, allegedly brawled with a Japanese man late on Sunday on a street in Yokosuka, a major naval hub south of Tokyo, police said. Police said Turner was heavily intoxicated and punched the man in the face and stomach. He was arrested on the spot. “They apparently got into a scuffle after they bumped into each other in the shoulders,” a Yokosuka police spokesman said. “The Japanese man had to go to a hospital emergency room, but the injuries don’t seem to be serious,” the spokesman said. Turner told police he did not remember the incident, police said. “There is still a whole investigatory process, trying to figure out what actually happened,” US naval spokesman David Waterman said.
Antibody drugs kill six
Six people died in eastern China after being injected with antibody drugs, a local official said yesterday, confirming the latest fatalities in the nation’s weakly supervised pharmaceutical industry. The unidentified victims died in Jiangxi Province after being given human immunoglobulins at a hospital in the provincial capital Nanchang, the Jiangxi food and drug watchdog said in a statement on its Web site. “We’re investigating the cause,” said an official at the watchdog, who would only give her surname as Zheng. It was unclear why a batch of the infection-fighting proteins, made by Jiangxi Yabo Bio-Pharmaceutical Co (JYCB), caused the deaths at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University between May 22 and 28. Authorities have suspended the sale and use of the JYBC antibodies as an investigation gets underway.
Opposition leader detained
Police have arrested the leader of a breakaway faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and an opposition member of parliament, their representatives said on Sunday. Arthur Mutambara, who leads an MDC splinter group, was arrested on Sunday for publishing an article critical of President Robert Mugabe. Eric Matinenga, an opposition legislator and lawyer to the main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, was picked up on Saturday in the eastern district of Buhera and was being charged with inciting public violence, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
EU bid compromised
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski scored an overwhelming election victory on Sunday, but the violence that marred the poll could perpetuate divisions and delay the country’s progress toward EU membership. Gruevski’s conservative VMRO-DPMNE party will have the healthiest majority in parliament in more than a decade, riding on a wave of nationalist anger over Greece blocking its NATO membership invitation in April. The victory vindicated Gruevski’s controversial decision to call a snap election, gambling that the snub would strengthen his hand and pay off with a stronger four-year mandate.
Citizenship referendum fails
Voters on Sunday firmly rejected a far-right initiative that would have made it even harder for foreigners to become naturalized citizens. Only one of the countries 26 cantons approved the proposal by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) that would have allowed local communities to decide by secret ballot which immigrants are granted naturalization — with no right of appeal. At present, the decision is made by an ad-hoc commission, usually at the level of the regional cantons. On a national level, official results showed nearly 64 percent of voters in the referendum opposed the initiative, the Swiss News Agency reported.
Sex with robots?
On June 12 and June 13, scientists will gather in Maastricht to discuss the possibility that human beings will increasingly engage in personal and even romantic relationships with robots in the coming decades. Academics from Austria, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, Singapore, the US and the UK are expected to deliver some 20 presentations. The conference, organized by the University of Maastricht, follows the PhD dissertation Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners by Scottish chess player David Levy, 63, completed at the same university in October. A commercial edition of the dissertation, titled Love and Sex with Robots, was published shortly thereafter. Levy claims human beings will increasingly develop personal relations with robots.
Kids killed in train crash
Six people including five children were killed and 31 were injured yesterday when a train ploughed into a packed school bus on a level crossing in the French Alps, local officials said. The crash occurred at around 2pm in the town of Mesinges, when a regional service linking nearby Evian and Thonon-les-Bains collided with a bus carrying 50 children and six adults. “Five children were killed. Four passengers on the bus were seriously injured — it is not known if they are children or adults — and 27 children were slightly injured,” said an official at the local prefecture. French state rail company SNCF said several train passengers were hurt.
'Pedophile' pleads innocent
Canadian pedophile suspect Christopher Paul Neil, who was nabbed in Thailand last year after police “unswirled” his altered photograph on the Internet, pleaded innocent yesterday to charges of abduction, molestation, kidnapping and producing child pornography. “I deny all charges,” Neil, 32, told the Bangkok Criminal Court through a Thai interpreter. Prapat Dawan, the father of two boys allegedly abducted and molested by Neil, told the court that the suspect had ruined his reputation and those of his sons. In what might turn into a civil case should Neil be found guilty of criminal charges, Prapat demanded 300,000 baht (US$9,524) in compensation from Neil. “I have no money,” Neil responded to the judge’s question of whether he would pay Prapat compensation. “I have no job. I’m having financial problems.”
■ UNITED STATES
'Lorenzo's Oil' Odone dies
The man whose parents’ battle to save him from a nerve disease was depicted in the movie Lorenzo’s Oil died on Friday at his home in Virginia, having lived more than 20 years longer than doctors had predicted. Lorenzo Odone, who doctors had predicted would die in childhood, died one day after his 30th birthday, said his father, Augusto Odone. Lorenzo Odone had come down with aspiration pneumonia recently after getting food stuck in his lungs, his father said. He began bleeding heavily, and before an ambulance reached their home his son was dead, Odone said. “He could not see or communicate, but he was still with us,” Odone said on Friday. “He did not suffer ... That’s the important thing.” Odone was found at age six to have adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD. His doctors told his parents the disease — caused by a genetic mutation that causes the neurological system to break down — would lead to death in two years.
■ UNITED STATES
Marine dies over US$8
On leave from the violence he had survived in the war in Iraq, a young Marine was so wary of crime on the streets of his own home town that he carried only US$8 to avoid becoming a robbery target. Despite his caution, Lance Corporal Robert Crutchfield, 21, was shot point-black in the neck during a robbery at a bus stop on Jan. 5. Feeding and breathing tubes kept him alive for months, until he died of an infection on May 18. Two men have been charged in the attack, and prosecutor Bill Mason said on Friday the case was under review to decide whether to seek the death penalty. “It is an awful story,” said Alberta Holt, the young Marine’s aunt. “They took it, turned his pockets inside out, took what he had and told him since he was a Marine and didn’t have any money he didn’t deserve to live. They put the gun to his neck and shot him,” Holt said. The two men charged in the attack were identified as Ean Farrow, 19, and Thomas Ray III, 20, both of Cleveland. Their attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
Tropical storm weakens
Tropical Storm Arthur weakened to a dissipating depression on Sunday after soaking the Yucatan Peninsula. But heavy rains still threatened to cause dangerous flooding and mudslides in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. The National Hurricane Center in Miami warned that remnants of the first named storm of this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season could rain a total of 12cm to 25cm across portions of Belize, Guatemala and southeastern Mexico, with isolated rainfall up to 38cm possible.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”